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COVID-19 Causes New Jersey Casino Revenue To Drop 80% In 2020

The Response To The Pandemic Wreaked Havoc On The Brick-And-Mortar Industry, While Online Operators Saw Sizable Revenue Increases

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Forced casino closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused an 80% drop in gaming revenue for brick-and-mortar operators in New Jersey throughout all of 2020.

According to data released Friday by the Division of Gaming Enforcement, the states nine Atlantic City casinos reported a combined gross operating profit of $117.5 million last year. It’s just a small fraction of the $593.9 million those properties earned in 2019.

Eight of the nine casinos reported massive decreases for the year. Outside of Ocean Resort, which saw a 224% increase in revenue, every property experienced at least a 71% drop. Resorts Casino operated at a loss for the year, losing $10.5 million.

The plummeting year-over-year revenue was predictable as Gov. Phil Murphy shuttered the state’s in-person gaming industry for the entire second quarter of 2020. Murphy forced them to close in mid-March in response to the coronavirus outbreak and allowed the industry to reopen with heavy-handed restrictions July 2.

Casinos were operating at 25% capacity and had to enforce social distancing protocols that included having fewer players at each gaming table, which further reduced revenues and profits. It wasn’t until last month that Murphy began easing these restrictions.

These restrictions and closures caused regulators to say that the numbers from 2019 and 2020 were “not comparable.”

“Atlantic City and its casinos endured their most challenging year in history,” said James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, in a statement. “Casino hotels were closed more than three months to mitigate the spread of the virus. Yet, through responsible management, the casinos proved that in-person gaming could happen safely… As tourists return to the shore, they can have every confidence Atlantic City is safe for the summer.”

While retail locations struggled, Garden State online casinos thrived in the pandemic.

Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which owns the WSOP.com online poker room and the corresponding online casino, had a 45.3% uptick in profit with $19.9 million. Resorts Digital, which owns PokerStars’ New Jersey client, saw a 148.4% increase after raking in $21.1 million.

Golden Nugget Online Gaming, which launched in 2020 after Tilman Fertitta separated his land-based properties from his online ventures, reported $18.6 million in profit during its first year. Despite reporting a smaller profit than its two competitors, the company had the largest net revenue of the three with $65.6 million.